Glenn Maxwell smashed 57 and then Yuzvendra Chahal spun a web around Punjab Kings as they once again bungled a chase allowing Royal Challengers Bangalore to book a play-off berth with a six-run victory in an IPL game on Sunday.
Maxwell's 34-ball-57 propelled Punjab Kings to 164 for 7 which is the highest team total in Sharjah this season and then Chahal owned the middle-overs with another game-changing spell of 3/29 which saw KL Rahul's team finish at 158 for 6.
With 16 points from 12 games, RCB thus became the third team after Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals to make it to the last four stage.
Punjab Kings with 10 points from 13 games can reach 12 points but with a net run-rate of -0.241 and having played one match more than Rajasthan Royals (10 points), Mumbai Indians (10 points) and KKR (10 points before evening game), they are all but out of the competition.
It was another close match that Punjab Kings couldn't finish off and their skipper Rahul needs to take a lot of responsibility as his 39 off 35 balls did more damage than help to his team's cause.
Match after match, Rahul has been taking the game deep and then frittering away the advantage after which, the below-par middle-order of Punjab Kings, arguably the worst in this edition is bungling up big time.
Punjab Kings were 91 for no loss in the 11th over before Rahul's indiscreet shot selection trying to hit left-arm spinner Sahbaz Ahmed against turn changed the course of the match.
His opening partner Mayank Agarwal (57 off 42 balls) was more attacking but was fooled by Chahal's cleve variation of pace as he top edged a sweep shot.
Nicholas Pooran (less than 100 runs in 11 games) probab;y is the luckiest player to get one chance after the other and played another rash sweep shot off a tossed up Chahal delivery and a distinctly overweight Sarfaraz Khan, was fooled by a conventional leg-break.
Punjab needed 27 runs from the last two overs and Mohammed Siraj (0/33 in 4 overs) bowled an impressive penultimate over to bring down the equation to 19 runs off the final over and Harshal Patel (0/27 in 4 overs) defended well by taking the pace off his deliveries.
Earlier, Glenn Maxwell's six-hitting prowess was on display as his 33-ball 57 propelled Royal Challengers Bangalore to a challenging 164 for 7 in their Indian Premier League game against Punjab Kings here on Sunday.
Opting to bat, RCB suffered a middle order collapse after openers Devdutt Padikkal (40; 38 balls, 4x4; 2x6) and Virat Kohli (25; 24 balls, 2x4; 1x6) added 68 runs for the first wicket.
But Maxwell, who is in the midst of one of his best IPL seasons, hit four sixes and three fours, to complete 50 off 29 balls.
He and AB De Villiers (23 off 18 balls; 1x4; 2x6), the two best T20 batters, conjured 73 runs for the fourth wicket and brought their side back on track.
Kohli started with a four, while Padikkal hammered Arshdeep Singh (0/42 in 3 overs) for a back-to-back six, over deep mid-wicket and a boundary, an elegant cut, in the third over, in which RCB fetched 13 runs.
Padikkal then launched into leggie Ravi Bishnoi (0/35 in 4 overs), striking two boundaries, in similar fashion, over his head.
Kohli, who got a reprieve in the fifth over as young Sarfaraz Khan, dropped a tough chance at short-mid wicket, then was in his element. The duo tore into the Punjab Kings attack, as they raced to 55/0 after Powerplay.
In the eight over, Padikkal was given not out, despite a wiggle, which was seen off his glove, by the third umpire, off Bishnoi.
But Punjab pegged back RCB by picking three quick wickets, all by Moises Henriques (3/12 in 4 overs). He first cleaned up Kohli and off the next ball forced Dan Christian, to give a regulation catch to Sarfaraz Khan.
Henriques then dismissed Padikkal, who nicked one to Rahul, as RCB was tottering at 73/3. Maxwell then too charge and took theteam past 160-run mark.